2009 Costume Institute Gala

 Red Carpet Report

This year the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion”. The exhibition runs from May 6 until August 9, 2009. As mentioned in the press release, this exhibition explores the reciprocal relationship between high fashion and evolving ideals of beauty, focusing on iconic fashion models in the latter half of the 20th century and their roles in projecting, and sometimes inspiring, the fashion of their respective eras. The exhibit is expected to showcase how these models have served as designer muses by inspiring, defining and embodying trendsof the 20th century, and contributing to how fashion eras are remembered.

In the past years, the public interest and fascination for supermodels has waned significantly. The gala held tonight served as an interesting view of what was yesterday and how things are today. Long gone are the Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell flamboyant display of personalities that had more to do with the superstar system than anything related to the fashion world. Today, fashion and its dictates have won, and the models have become not much more than clothes hangers that let the creative spirit of fashion designers be expressed. They merely display clothes, leaving their personalities behind a common mask of unexpressive faces and languid physical stance. The British model Agnes Deyn, who has been touted as “fashion’s next supermodel” is an exception. Even she stays in the recesses of public scrutiny (so far), just lending her public persona for mostly fashion related events.

The two first VIPs to step on the red carpet were Marc Jacobs (Honorary Chair) and Kate Moss (one of the three co-chairs), clad in a single shoulder asymmetrical metallic dress by Marc Jacobs with matching platform heels and a metallic turban by Stephen Jones. Following them and in all fashion splendor came Heidi Klum (who is expecting), glowing in a Gilles Mendel dress made of layered and tiered midnight blue organza. Gilles Mendel was her proud escort.

After this, a succession of celebrities, models and guests followed on the red carpet amid the shouting of photographers claiming their attention, and lights flashing from every direction. Among the many seen arriving and posing for photographs, some more than others attracted attention whether by their status and/or what they were wearing. The models were out in force, of course, most showing long and extremely skinny legs in very short outfits.

Cindy Crawford, along side Donatella Versace, sizzled in a plunging and fitted electric blue Versace number that featured a thigh-high slit. Victoria Beckham in a Marc Jacobs polka-dot single shoulder mini dress with a train stood confidently in sky-high pedestal ankle wrap pumps.The only fashion tragedy of that evening was that Leighton Meester wore the same shoes! Jessica Biel stepped out in Christian Louboutin’s, looking radiant in a red boned-bodiced Atelier Versace Spring 2009 gown complete with ruffled train.

Boyfriend Justin Timberlake, a co-host of the night’s festivities, looked dapper in a creation from his William Rast line. Gisele Bundchen went super short in a sequined blue Versace mini and peep-toe booties to match. Tyra Banks walked the red carpet in a metallic black strapless fishtail Badgley Mischka Couture gown accessorized with the designer’s jet chandelier earrings, glass stone cuff, and couture shoes. The singer Rihanna sizzled in a black tuxedo, and edgy creation from Dolce & Gabbana.

Almost a flashback to her wild youth and shocking ways, Madonna turned out in an outrageous ensemble complete with thigh high black stripper boots and what could be the world’s largest scrunchie. It was Louis Vuitton, so that worked for the “Material Girl,” but not for the rest of us. Designer Stella McCartney in a lacy pant singlet showed off some of her design muses. Kate Hudson glistened in a gold keyhole halter gown with exposed back, Liv Tyler was superb in a blue plunging number, and Kate Bosworth was magnificent in a body-hugging lace gown.

Mary-Kate Olsen wore a fantastically full vintage Christian Lacroix frock. Diane von Furstenberg was seen going up the stairs in an elegant free flowing metallic dress. The singer Ciara looked beautiful in a black and white Pucci dress created by its new director Peter Dundas. If Anna Wintour looked elegant and classy in a black and white Chanel Couture dress, her daughter Bee Schafer and her Nina Ricci dress didn’t fare as well. A special mention goes to Stella McCartney whose obvious talent was well displayed that night.

However, in my opinion, the five best dresses of the night were the ones worn by Heidi Klum (Gilles Mendel), Marion Cotillard in a dreamy blush pink Christian Dior dress, Renée Zellweger in a fantastic forest green long dress by Carolina Herrera, Liv Tyler in a blue metallic dress by Stella McCartney, Diane Kruger in a fantastic Chanel dress of white roses.

As for the fashion faux pas, well, there were quite a few. The one that stands out the most has to be what Helena Christiensen was wearing. She was accompanied by Zac Posen and modeled one of the fashion designer’s creations that looked more like a cheap Halloween costume than anything else.

Kohle Yohannan, guest co-curator of the exhibit says that “We’reliving in an era, where there are 14-year olds running up and down the runway and Carmen at 77 walking the same runway. We have plus-size models, we have the skinny model, we’ve got everything inbetween, we’ve got every race, every blend, every exotic type. That’s great, we’ve come a long way and I think it’s awesome to celebrate all of these women’s contributions to what fashion is, because it’s more than a dress. It’s the woman in it as well”. Maybe, Mr Yohannan, however more than ever before, the high-end of fashion only chooses very skinny and unhealthy looking models. Tonight, seeing curvier women like Cindy Crawford, Cheryl Tiegs and Carol Alt (to name a few) was a reminder that models do not need to be just clothes hangers to display fashion the best way.

A final note concerning the technical side of the event. This year, budget cuts (?) resulted in poor lighting under the tent housing the red carpet. It’s was quite unfortunate, as many photographers noted.

-Muriel Geny-Triffaut



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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